Mike Tindall, whose drunken antics during the early stages of the recent World Cup in New Zealand were a significant factor in the collapse of the England campaign, was last night reinstated to the elite squad by the Rugby Football Union's outgoing chief executive Martyn Thomas, whose decision will be widely seen as the latest blow struck in Twickenham's increasingly destructive committee-room conflict. The England centre also finds himself £10,000 better off, having had a £25,000 fine cut by two-fifths on appeal.
The Gloucester midfielder and occasional England captain, who earned a World Cup winner's medal in 2003 and also happens to be the newest member of the extended Royal family, found himself plastered all over the papers at home and abroad – not to mention every celebrity website – after drinking himself stupid on a players' night out following the opening pool victory over Argentina in September.
Security cameras at a Queenstown bar showed him in an advanced state of inebriation, canoodling with a blonde woman who, it was later claimed, was an old friend of Tindall and his wife of a few weeks, Zara Phillips.
On his return from a tournament that was as much a personal failure as a collective one – the manager Martin Johnson dropped him from the team for the quarter-final with France – he was called before Rob Andrew, director of elite rugby, and Karen Vleck, the RFU's company secretary and legal officer, who took a dim view of his behaviour and ejected him from the Test squad and fined him.
Both these actions were overturned by Thomas, whose long and increasingly autocratic control of union affairs will end on 16 December, when he severs all links with the governing body.
His explanation was extremely pointed in its implied criticism of Andrew, one of his principal rivals in the recent power struggles, and Vleck. "We accept there were mitigating factors, which do not appear to have been taken into account to the extent that they might otherwise have been," Thomas said in announcing his findings, four days after hearing Tindall's appeal.
There is no guarantee Tindall will represent England again, despite his reinstatement. A new elite squad will be named on New Year's Day, possibly by the England Saxons coach Stuart Lancaster with input from Andrew, and by that time, Thomas will be out of rugby office and in no position to defend him further.